12 outdoor activities in San Diego (that aren’t the beach)

Sep 16, 2021 - Mary Cravens

There is no denying that San Diego has some of the best beaches in the U.S., or even the world. However, if you’re sick of the sand or just want something different, San Diego also has plenty to offer that’s not just the beach. No matter where in San Diego you’re located, here are three outdoor activities that are not the beach. 

North County

1. Del Mar Fairgrounds 

For year round activities that are great for all ages, head to the Del Mar Fairgrounds. For a range of prices, you can experience concerts, car shows, art exhbibits, and more. Events change depending on the time of year but there is always something new to discover. 

2. Carlsbad Strawberry Co. 

Fresh strawberries? Yes please. At the family-owned Carlsbad Strawberry Company, you can pick your own fresh strawberries in the summer, and visit a pumpkin patch and corn maze in the fall. And even when strawberries and pumpkins aren’t in season, you can enjoy a variety of events, from farmers markets to food vendors.  

3. Farmer’s Markets 

If you’re looking to shop local, chat with vendors, and spend time outside, look no further than a farmers market in North County. With its proximity to a wide variety of farms, you can find a farmers market every day and at any time all along the 78 Corridor in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido. 


South County 

1. Living Coast Discovery Center 

Perfect for children and adults, the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista has both indoor and outdoor exhibits featuring sea animals, birds, and walking trails. Tickets start at $11 and will provide an entire day of fun for all ages. 

2. Chicano Park in Barrio Logan 

In Barrio Logan/ Logan Heights, San Diego’s oldest Mexican-American neighborhood, there’s a not-so-hidden treasure— the world’s largest collection of Chicano murals. You can take a self-guided tour through the murals, then enjoy local food and drink at one of the nearby restaurants.  

3. Bayshore Bikeway 

For those wanting to get some exercise while still seeing sights, head to the Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile loop around San Diego Bay. Starting Downtown and going all the way to Chula Vista, this is a great way to see the sights San Diego has to offer. No bike? No problem. There are many bike rental shops along the trail. 


East County 

1. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 

Explore the largest state park in California, and experience a unique part of Southern California’s wildlife. Within its 600,000 acres, you can enjoy canyons, wild flower blooms, and sculptures— not to mention amazing views from one of the many hiking trails available. 

2. Water Conservation Garden 

The Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego boasts acres of garden displays all while using water-smart gardening techniques. Butterflies, succulents, and native plants are just a few of the attractions the Water Conservation Garden has to offer. 

3. Horseback riding in Julian 

One hour East of the beaches of San Diego, Julian offers amazing experiences like horseback riding, camping, fishing, and biking. Whether you’re an East County local or used to enoying the heart of Downtown, a day trip— or longer— in Julian can be a relaxing change in pace.

Central San Diego 

1. Balboa Park 

Even bigger than New York City’s Central Park, Balboa Park’s expansive grounds are filled with activities that appeal to all audiences. Museums, endless attractions, festivals, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo— there is something for everyone.  

2. La Jolla’s hidden swings 

A fun activity that ends in amazing views, sign us up! Finding the hidden swings of La Jolla is a must-do. Once at the swings, you can look out over the ocean and enjoy a peaceful views of downtown La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean. Here’s a hint for those looking— you’ll need to be near UC San Diego to find them. 

3. San Diego’s Embarcadero 

In Downtown San Diego, Embarcadero offers everything from fresh fish markets to the USS Midway Museum. Whether you want to spend your day biking, visiting museums, seeing art, or shopping outdoors, Embarcadero is the place to go for variety and convenience.  

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